Tuesday, March 30, 2010

5 tips to recognize and beat “Recession Depression”

The U.S. suicide rate is on the rise. That might not qualify as shocking news amidst the recent troubling economic times, except that the latest numbers reflect a period before the financial meltdown that began in September 2008. What's more, the bulk of the increase hasn't been in teens or in the elderly— two groups generally found to be at the highest risk — but among middle-aged adults.

A study by Johns Hopkins University researchers published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine reported a nearly 16% surge in suicides between 1999 and 2005 among people ages 40-64. This accounted for much of the overall increase of 5% during that period, after suicide rates had declined between 1986 and 1999. Although rates since the economic downturn aren't yet available, it's safe to assume the upward trend has only accelerated. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, for example, reported a 27% higher call volume in January 2009 than in January 2008.

While it's unclear what's driving the increase, Dr. Ian A. Cook, director of the UCLA Unipolar Depression Research and Clinic Program, believes the stresses of modern life may be the culprit.

More than in the past, Dr. Cook says, we are living with uncontrollable and unpredictable threats, a situation only exacerbated in the throes of economic hardship. "The stock markets are much more volatile, and people who once thought they had job security find that even big companies are not as stable as they once were," he notes.

Tools people can use to take care of their mental health during the current economic distress can be found at “Beat Recession Depression.” The UCLA Unipolar Depression Research and Clinic Program also offers help (http://www.depressionla.com/), along with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

How do you prevent going from stressed-out to severely depressed – or even for some, beginning a downward spiral leading to suicidal thoughts?

There are many things we can do to make ourselves more resilient. We know that regular physical exercise has been shown to calm the mind and body. Psychologically, Dr. Cook recommends that we focus on the future, rather than dwelling on what we might have done differently. Just keep expectations realistic and adapt to new realities.

Dr. Cook offers these tips:
  • Recognizing the signs
  • Bringing it up
  • Continuing the discussion
  • Seeking help
  • Acting in an emergency

Monday, March 29, 2010

“Pharming out” R&D could be a risky move

Outsourcing usually provides a better service at a lower cost. But for pharmaceuticals companies, farming out their research function is a risky move.

According to a 2/22 column in the Financial Times, an outsourcing strategy leaves companies at the mercy of the secondary market as it assumes a ready supply of quality drugs is available from bio-tech companies. The output of these smaller research houses, though, is cyclical and the number of people who can finance them is limited. Few of the researchers among the 11,000 staff jettisoned by GSK and AstraZeneca this year are capable of launching their own companies.

What’s more, the FT writer adds, large pharmaceuticals companies will be loath to enter into a bidding war for the successful ones, especially when a looming patent cliff makes cash flow uncertain.

Click here to read more.

Friday, March 26, 2010

7 ways that Laughter Can Offer the Best Medicine

Here to put a smile on your face and lower your stress are some ideas from Cindy Brumm, chief of staff at STINSON.

The U.S. media has an ongoing fascination with Americans’ health and well-being - we’re too fat, too thin, too sedentary, too obsessive about fitness and looks (or not concerned enough), too many lifestyle-related illnesses – the list is endless.  One thing every media outlet does seem to agree on is that we are experiencing more negative stress than at any other time in history.  And stress impacts our overall health on multiple levels – physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and social.   Stressors impacting one aspect of our health often affect other areas as well. Feeling frustrated (an emotional stress response) after a long day or grueling commute?  The muscles in your shoulders are probably tight and way up by your ears, or you’ve developed a headache (emotional stress creating physical stress).  Keep up this cycle long enough and your overall health can be affected.

We can never eliminate all the stressors in our lives, but to prevent a domino effect that impacts our overall health, it’s important to focus on managing our stress levels.  One easy way to bring down stress levels requires no cash outlay, no trip to the gym or therapist, and no huge time commitment.  And you can carry it with you wherever you go. All you have to do is…laugh.

Chuckles, guffaws or belly laughs – the health benefits are no laughing matter and a great way to unwind and relieve stress.  Laughter not only lifts our mood and makes the world feel a little brighter, it causes physical changes as well.  Endorphins are released that can counteract negative feelings , circulation is stimulated and more oxygen-rich blood flows through our bodies, and we breathe more fully and deeply.  Over time, if we keep on laughing and dispelling negative stress, our body’s immune system receives a boost, neuropeptides are released to help fight disease, and pain is lessened.

How can you use laughter to relieve stress in your life? 
  1. Watch a funny movie or sitcom (I love “Modern Family” http://abc.go.com/shows/modern-family and hear “The Hangover” http://hangovermovie.warnerbros.com/ is hilarious).
  2. Go to a comedy club.
  3. Read a silly book.
  4. Watch kids play.
  5. You can even check out Laughter Yoga: http://www.laughteryoga.org/.
  6. See John Cleese experience Laughter Yoga:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yXEfjVnYkqM
  7. Need help destressing?  Try iStress: http://www.psiappsinc.com/iphone-applications-istress.html, a stress management app that teaches relaxation techniques and thinking skills (including the use of humor) to combat stress and anxiety.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

People With Acromegaly Find Hope Through Magic Foundation

At STINSON, we’ve had the privilege of helping to brand and market products that treat rare and serious diseases. For many, the launch of these brands has been life-changing. Here is some news shared by Nancy Burgess, Director of CHEM at our company.

Imagine having problems with your vision. Maybe you’ve also noticed that your:
  • Rings don’t fit
  • Shoe size went up
  • Jaw has grown or your teeth suddenly have spaces between them
  • Tongue seems to have grown
Maybe you’ve also developed:
  • Skin tags
  • Headaches
  • Sweating
  • Joint pain
This seemingly unrelated constellation of symptoms indicates an excess production of growth hormone, a condition called acromegaly. Acromegaly results from a pituitary tumor, and although the tumor itself is benign, patients typically undergo numerous surgeries and deal with lifelong symptoms. Treatments are aimed at controlling symptoms and growth hormone levels.

What’s worse, many of these people feel alone in their suffering. Most have never met another person with their condition, and it’s hard to get solid information about it. At STINSON, we’ve been privileged to talk to many of these people with acromegaly. We’ve heard their stories and their pain.

Now, there is an opportunity to heal some of that pain.

The Magic Foundation, a patient advocacy group for pituitary disorders is hosting its 5th Annual Convention for Adults with Pituitary Disorders. It takes place on June 11-13 at the Chicago O’Hare Marriott. This year’s meeting includes a session specifically focused on acromegaly.

Those interested in attending can click here to learn more.

If you’ve been suffering alone with acromegaly, you may want to consider attending the June program. Other online peer-to-peer resources include:

Wayne’s website - www.acromegalycommunity.com  
Wayne’s Facebook Group – http://www.facebook.com/acromegaly
Daily Strength – http://www.dailystrength.org/c/Acromegaly/support-group
Hormone Foundation – http://www.hormone.org/Pituitary/
Pituitary Network Association: –  http://www/pituitary.org
Blessed-Beyond Measure – http://blessed-beyondmeasure.blogspot.com/

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Chicago Support Network Seeks to Grow Biotech Companies

An article published recently in the New York Times discusses how iBIO, Illinois biotechnology trade organization is linking researchers and biotech start-ups to resources in order to help them succeed in business.

The East and West coast have long been thought of as the source of technology innovation, but Illinois is demonstrating that they are definitely in the game. iBIO is also working to bring this recognition to Illinois in order to help gain notice of angel investors and venture capitalists to fund these early stage technology companies.  Hosting the BIO International Convention in Chicago this year is also a sign in the right direction. For more information on BIO International Convention, visit http://convention.bio.org/.

According to their website, iBIO’s mission is to make Illinois and the surrounding Midwest one of the world’s top life sciences centers: a great place to do business, and a great place to grow new technology ventures. 

It is iBIO, in addition to other organizations, that make up this network of resources including Propel, which is a statewide program aimed at training and educating entrepreneurs in Illinois and helping get technology from universities and into tech parks and the industry. 

The article goes on to give examples of companies that have benefited from these programs and also addresses the challenges with start ups in today’s economy.

Click here to read more about the companies featured, iBIO, and their involvement at this year’s BIO International Convention in Chicago (May 3-6, 2010).

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

40% - 75% market share: Does it mean Branding is not crucial to success?

A recent article in the February 16 Financial Times entitled “Corporate Japan needs to reignite the value in its faltering brands” referred to Japan’s excessive emphasis on production at the expense of the brand.

But it drew a response that I read on my recent trip through Asia.  The writer claims the article “fails to mention that many Japanese companies, whose brands are largely unknown to the public, are global leaders in the high-tech components that account for a significant share of total value added in the end products that contain them.”

In his letter to the editor, Mr. Martin Beresford offered a few examples – including Nidec (with a 75% global market share of the micromotors for hard disk drives), Murata (40% of capacitors), Covalent (70% of carbon brushes in electric motors), Mabuchi (50% of DC micromotors used in cars, audio-video equipment and so on) or Shimano (65% of bicycle gears and brake systems). Few consumers of the end-products that contain such components are aware of these brands.

Mr. Beresford writes, “Branding is, of course, important in marketing end-products. But for component makers – who account for a very large share of Japanese manufacturing – the substantive value of their proprietary technology, market dominance in their respective sectors, and their major share of total value added in the end-products that contain them, largely explain such companies’ ability to sustain high margins, despite their relative lack of branding or brand awareness.”

Monday, March 22, 2010

OT5 Operating Theatre at Matilda Hospital raises the bar in HK’s healthcare

When I was in Hong Kong recently, I made a point to watch for healthcare developments.  Here’s one example of a leading-edge hospital innovation.

Surrounded by blue glass panel walls with touch-screen TVs hanging down from the ceiling and coupled with all the innovative lighting shining on the squeaky clean floor, this OR could easily be mistaken for a film set on a sci-fi spaceship.

Recently launched by the Matilda International Hospital in Hong Kong, the OT5 offers a glimpse into the future of surgery with fully integrated information systems and equipment controls from a central panel.

Not only is the non-profit hospital situated atop the highest point in Hong Kong (Victoria Peak), its also positioned at the top of investments for the future.  This HK$10 million OR is key to meeting increased demands for musculoskeletal and minimal invasive surgery for years to come.

You can download a pdf brochure at www.matilda.org/pdf/OT5.pdf.

Friday, March 19, 2010

4 central questions for navigating market development for treatments of rare diseases

When GSK and Pfizer pursue orphan drugs it makes headlines:

October 13, 2009: GlaxoSmithKline licenses a drug for the rare Duchenne muscular dystrophy with plans to pursue orphan drug designation.

December 1, 2009: Pfizer licenses a treatment for Gaucher's disease and gains orphan drug designation and fast track status.

But these deals are far from the most significant orphan drug initiatives.  In fact, more than 350 products have been approved under the Orphan Drug Program. Not only are companies meeting important patient medical needs, orphan drugs make good business sense, too — they can provide 7 years of market exclusivity, tax credits, and other advantages.

I try to look beyond the “orphan drug” regulatory designation, which has its own challenges and pitfalls.  I focus on the uniqueness of strategy to develop the brand, develop the market, and develop the company’s support capabilities.

But how do you do it, and does it make sense for your brand?

In our StrategicGPS® facilitated process, we try to get to the central questions:
  1. Who are the “customers”? The treatment of rare diseases is a more complex matrix of health care providers and payers.  And the advocates for the patients are strong, and must be heard.
  2. Where are we now?  Consider the current state of the process of care, along with all its components.  A new treatment might fit in or it might require a complete reinvention.
  3. Where do we want to be?  This is not a question of sales, share, or “leadership”.  Rather, it’s a vision of what the patients’ and physicians’ world could look like with a new treatment.
  4. How do we get there?  The notion that "clinical superiority" alone can get you there has been proven faulty.  A strategy that engages all the relevant issues is essential.  And the earlier the better.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

5 Trends that will Shape the Future – from Thomas Frey, head of DaVinci Institute

Here are five of the most important trends that Thomas Frey, futurologist and head of the DaVinci Institute, has identified as potentially changing the way we do business in the future.  The ongoing affects of the global crisis, the disruptive influence of new technology, the emergence of new business models and the search for new energy solutions, are all discussed here.
  1. System Crisis.  Many of the global systems we currently have are on the verge of breaking since they have evolved out of a roughly put together national system, and have not been designed to properly manage the speed and volume of today’s society. There is a need for a transition from national systems to global systems. Major failures will occur in most systems over the coming years including our tax systems, justice systems, social security, monetary systems, and much more, and, as they fall, major opportunities will rise.
  2. The Coming “Empire of One.” With financial markets being pinched, the most popular form of startup will be the “Empire of One,” a one-person business with far reaching influence. Typically, this sort of business out-sources everything to other businesses around the world. The skyrocketing costs of employment and the power and capability that new technologies place into the hands of the individual makes this a perfect environment for a no-employee business to thrive.
  3. Business Colonies. Business colonies will emerge as next generation, industry specific incubators, with an economic development component added in.  Colonies, such as nanotech colonies or alternative health colonies, will be formed in cities to serve as an industry focal point and breeding ground for startup businesses. They will be both virtual and physical, will vary in size and structure, and will form around shared resources. Equipment that is too expensive for one person to own will be owned by the colony for all to share.
  4. Cloud Computing.  The prospects of being able to plug into your own workspace on portable devices wherever you happen to be, and to tap into cloud-based applications instead of purchasing the clunky and expensive software packages is very appealing. For people working in the industry, the cloud computing movement is already well underway. But for the movement to reach full steam, it will take years to complete and will be fraught with problems. It has, however, recently gained traction among business communities with things like Amazon’s Web Services, Google’s App Engine, etc. Cloud computing is destined to become a steamroller movement forcing many to alter the way they do business.
  5. Battle of the Alternative Energy Sectors. The push for alternative energy has only just begun. Over the coming years, alternative fuels will expand exponentially, moving into additional areas beyond energy production, into energy transmission and energy storage.
You can read more thought-provoking articles like this in the HSM “Inspiring Ideas” e-newsletter.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

1/10,000 may be the small prevalence of HAE, but it was the big thinking at this year’s AAAAI

Hereditary Angioedema (HAE), a very rare and potentially life threatening genetic condition, stole the thunder at the AAAAI this year.  One of our brand engagement managers, Layne Shapiro, attended the conference to represent the Stinson Brand Innovation team.  She shares these observations.

HAE is a rare disease that occurs in only about 1/10,000 to 1/50,000 people. Symptoms include episodes of swelling (edema) in various body parts including the hands, feet, face, and airway.  Until this past year, there were no approved treatments of HAE in the US.

The buzz at AAAAI was regarding the 3 recently approved treatment options for HAE:
  • CINRYZE™ (C1 esterase inhibitor (human): Approved for patient self administration, CINRYZE™ is a C1 esterase inhibitor indicated for the routine prophylaxis against angioedema attacks in adolescent and adult patients with HAE.
  • KALBITOR® (ecallantide): The first approved for subcutaneous treatment for all acute HAE attack locations, Kalbitor must be given by a doctor or nurse in a healthcare setting. KALBITOR® is an inhibitor of the protein kallikrein used for HAE. 
  • BERINERT® (C1 Esterase Inhibitor, Human): Approved for treatment of acute abdominal or facial attacks of HAD in adult and adolescent patients, BERINERT® is a plasma-derived concentrate of C1 esterase inhibitor (human).
 The US Hereditary Angioedema Association (HAEA) had a table in the exhibit hall, as well as a postcard insert in the registrants’ bag which described the condition, the association, and the US HAEA Scientific Registry.

Through educational grants, CSL Behring, Dyax Corp, and ViroPharma funded a dinner symposium entitled "Hereditary Angioedema: Diagnosis and Management Options for the 21st Century." Speakers from around the world included Bruce L. Zuraw, MD, Marco Cicardi, MD, and Konrad Bork, MD. They discussed topics such as identifying appropriate diagnostic tests, proper interpretation and limitation for each assay, acute treatement options, and the selection, dosage and monitoring of therapeutic agents used in controlling HAE.

Typically it takes about 10 years before a person will be diagnosed with HAE. Marc Riedl, MD, MS, has put together a CME course with ReachMD for allergists and healthcare professionals on overcoming the many obstacles in HAE with regard to diagnosis and treatment.

With new treatment options available, diagnosis has become increasingly important.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Can co-opetition bring down drug prices?

Our blog posting today comes from Jairaj Mashru, brand engagement manager (and globally-aware marketer).

I read two articles recently that raised an interesting question in my mind. The pharmaceutical industry presents several complex challenges – one of them is that drugs are expensive, especially for treating or managing rare diseases. Rare diseases typically have a small patient population and often involve lifelong medication. Usually, the smaller a patient population is, the higher the price of the drug.

An article on Forbes.com reported the most expensive therapy in the world costs nearly $410,000 for one year of treatment. Most insurance plans include a lifetime cap of 1 or 2 million dollars (some may have higher caps), which makes it nearly impossible for a patient to stay on therapy beyond a couple years. They remain untreated, or even worse, also uninsured thereafter.

Another news story on Businessweek.com reported that Lilly, Merck and Pfizer have joined forces in Asia to focus on research for cancer treatments. They have formed a non-profit organization, the Asia Cancer Research Group to collaborate on research and development of new treatments for cancers that are more common in Asia (such as lung and gastric). This seems a bit counter-intuitive since the recent trend has been for big pharmaceutical companies in the developed world to acquire or license a new drug developed by a smaller company in the developing world.

However, pooling in resources (monetary, knowledge, technology, capacity, etc.) from the developed world and investing them in the developing world (lower cost countries) can be an effective way for pharmaceutical companies to work together to bring down the cost for innovative treatment solutions to manage rare diseases.

While politicians in the US are trying to create one big solution (a.k.a. major surgery) to solve many health care problems, perhaps a couple band-aids can help. Co-opetition can work to lower the drug prices or even discover new treatments, provided the goal is clear and the outcome can be a win-win situation for all parties.

It is easier said than done; however, these 3 market leaders have taken the initiative to bring their best resources together in search of new market opportunities that can benefit each of them as well as their customers.

Monday, March 15, 2010

6 brand attributes of ForwardFast applied to “Pura Vida”

Today’s blog was submitted by Melanie Stinson, our director of Brand Engagement.

I recently traveled to Costa Rica for a week-long adventure and wedding celebration.

Whether I was ziplining through the treetops, horseback riding on the cobblestone paths to the volcanic mud hotsprings, snorkeling with pufferfish, or drinking an Imperial at the swim-up bar, ticos always exclaimed, “Pura Vida!!!”

Pura vida literally means "pure life," but the meaning is closer to "full of life," "purified life," "this is living!" "going great," or "cool!" It’s used as a greeting, as a word of farewell, to express satisfaction, or to politely express indifference when describing something.

Some foreigners view the phrase as an expression of a leisurely lifestyle, of disregard for time, and of wanton friendliness. Let me show you how flexible it is by applying the 6 attributes of the Stinson ForwardFast branding model:
  • Likeability – All residents have embraced this philosophy and are a very friendly people. The phrase is also easy and fun to say no matter what your first language is.
  • Logo – Pura Vida is stylized and printed on most every surface and product in Costa Rica. There are no graphic standards.
  • Quality Offering – Whatever you want to do, Pura Vida; make it happen.
  • Attitude – Pura Vida is a lifestyle and attitude that everyone, while in Costa Rica, adopts. It’s like a secret club, or a legend.
  • Associations – Pura Vida is a Costa Rican phrase; Jamaica has “Irie.”
  • Quality Experience – Pura Vida draws you so close that many tourists don’t go home after visiting for a week.
However, Costa Ricans use the phrase to express a philosophy of strong community, perseverance, resilience in overcoming difficulties with good spirits, enjoying life slowly, and celebrating good fortune of magnitudes small and large alike.

Thinking about your own surroundings, what one phrase describes the philosophy and experience of your village, city, or country?

Friday, March 12, 2010

2010 VW Ahead of the Curve through iPhone App Launch

The blog entry today was submitted by Greg Dosmann, our Associate Creative Director and Visual Brand CHEMist.

A high score in a video used to mean that you had the satisfaction of entering your initials next to your score. VW has decided to launch their new 2010 GTI solely through a new iPhone app and provide a chance to win a car.

The app is essentially an independent level of the racing game, Firement Real Racing, which has already received 70-million downloads since launching back in June 2009. In this version, you can choose from 6 different GTI’s to race and compete to win one of six real limited-edition black GTI MkVI cars. Real Racing GTI app challenges players to race virtual GTIs around a racetrack. The more you play, the more points you build up and each week for six weeks, the company will reward the week's top player with a real car.

This is one of the first times where a brand utilizes the iPhone as their only marketing and advertising tool for a product. The idea of developing this app off an existing, successful app, was a smart move considering how badly building an app from scratch could go. This game makes the driving experience fun and gives consumers a strong impression of the car they could drive out of the dealership. The showroom within the app features a GPS sync to find the nearest dealership and the iPhone provides options to call the dealership or map the route.

"With the personalization of media and the challenges inherent with reaching constantly connected consumers, we tasked ourselves to rethink the way we launch vehicles in order to engage our consumers in a meaningful way," Tim Ellis, vice president of marketing for Volkswagen of America, Inc., said in a statement. I think VW has made a lot of smart decisions in creating this app and an experience that will have a positive effect on consumers who are eyeing this car.

Nevertheless, it’s a great car game with the bonus of winning a real car. However, only time will tell if a free app can drive consumers to buy a $25-$30,000 car.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

AAMC president Darrell Kirch on the impact of a physician shortage

Last year on July 3, I wrote about a vision of health care delivery about “the "patient-centered medical home."

The "home" is the office of a primary care doctor where patients would go for most of their medical needs. This medical home may sound like the gatekeeper model of the 1990s, a managed-care creation that was all about holding down costs. But advocates say the new concept is designed to help patients, not insurers. It's more like doctoring 1950s-style, but now juiced up with digital technology.

Click here to read “The family doctor: a remedy for healthcare costs?”

But of course the challenge of making this vision real is a shortage of doctors.

Darrell G. Kirch, president of the Association of American Medical Colleges, recently wrote that the physician shortage is, in part, a result of expectations in the 1990s that managed care and primary care would greatly drive down the need for physicians, particularly specialists. However, these expectations fell short against the rising needs of an aging, growing population that has high expectations of its health-care system.

Kirch says today, the overall number of physicians in the U.S. is lower than the average per capita number of doctors in other nations such as Sweden, Denmark, Spain and France, and we now "import" some 25% of our physicians from other countries. While expansions of U.S. medical schools can close this part of the gap, the overall per capita supply of doctors in the country will decline without an expansion in the number of residency training positions. This expansion will not occur unless Medicare resumes paying for its share of training costs.

Because it takes so long to train a new physician, Kirch says, Congress must lift the freeze on support for medical training now, as part of health-care reform. While the cost to add new physicians is significant, it is less than 1% of current Medicare expenditures and an essential investment if people are to have timely access to a physician's care, not just the promise of insurance coverage.

Even those who expect the U.S. health-care system to be transformed in the next decade know that wishful thinking cannot provide the care they and their families will need. Congress is right to expand insurance to as many Americans as possible. But it also has a responsibility to ensure that the nation is cared for by more than an insurance card and an answering machine.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

3 innovations worth watching this year

In its review of the top innovations of last year, INC. Magazine included these intriguing health technologies:

1. A Tiny, Wireless Heart Monitor

CardioMEMS, based in Atlanta, envisions a world in which wireless sensors implanted throughout the body constantly monitor a patient’s cardiovascular health. The company’s first sensor, the EndoSure, is implanted in 5,000 patients suffering from aortic aneurysms. The sensor measures pressure inside the aorta and transmits data, via radio waves, to physicians during appointments a few times a year, so they can tailor patients’ drug regimens.

2. A New Way to Fight Germs

When searching for a way to keep barnacles from sticking to ship hulls, Tony Brennan, co-founder of Sharklet Technologies, looked to sharkskin, which is known for its ability to resist microbes. Peering through a microscope at an impression of the skin, Brennan confirmed his hunch that a diamond-shaped pattern of tiny tooth-like projections was keeping it clean. Now, the Alachua, Florida-based company makes sheets of plastic called SafeTouch, which are imprinted with a raised sharkskin-like pattern and can be adhered to germ-prone surfaces to prevent bacteria from settling in for up to 30 days.

3. Retinal Implants for the Blind

In an effort to provide vision to the blind, Sylmar, California-based company Second Sight has developed the Argus II, a retinal implant that receives images taken with a video camera mounted on eyeglasses. The images are converted into electronic signals by a processor and wirelessly transmitted to a receiver implanted on the eye. The receiver sends the data through a cable to an array of electrodes, which emit electric pulses that activate cells in the retina, sending signals through the optic nerve to the brain. Patients interpret the resulting patterns as low-res black-and-white images.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

3 Green Ideas for Pharmaceuticals

Our blog today was submitted by Jairaj Mashru, a brand engagement manager with a passion for sustainability.

Recently, I attended the 2010 State of the Green Business Forum in Chicago to learn more about the latest and greatest achievements in green marketing, energy, carbon caps, new products, services and even business models that will help protect the life of our planet.

Whatever your impression may be about our progress in these areas, it is clear that the green movement and sustainability thinking has continued to make its way into board rooms and R&D labs despite the poor economy. I wonder what the pharmaceuticals industry can offer to help this momentum.

Here are three ideas that could help pharmaceutical and other medical companies jumpstart the greening of their industry.
  1. Package Inserts - The FDA requires all prescription products to carry within its package a detailed document about the products’ prescribing information. The PIs tend to be large pieces of paper that is typically folded into a tiny booklet and inserted into the package.  While it is very important for pharmaceutical products to carry a PI, I wonder how many physicians and patients actually read the PI even once. One easy way to make a big impact is to begin using recycled paper for all PIs. In fact, what if the FDA made it mandatory for all pharmaceutical companies to print PIs and other marketing materials on post-consumer recycled paper? I wonder how many trees we would save every time you get a cold.
  2. Green Packaging - How many pharmaceutical products have you seen where the size of the package is two or three times larger than the size of the product? Whether is an over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription medicine, medical device or at-home diagnostic test kits, the inefficiency in packaging is standard across the board.  What if pharmaceutical companies begin to economize their packaging and use materials that are easy to recycle while protecting the medicine inside? They would see significant savings in the total product cost that could be passed on the consumers and additionally, the savings from lower shipping costs due to smaller packages could increase their profit too. 
  3. Energy - This is a big ticket item – switching to renewable sources of energy is no easy task, nor cheap. However, if a typical clinical trial can cost a pharmaceutical company upwards of $2 million, then it should not be so difficult for large pharmaceutical corporate campuses to begin spending on solar panels. They would be surprised to see that the ROI on a concentrated photovoltaic system (CPV) is almost as good as the ROI on one of their drugs, if not better and quicker.
I am eager to see some change, so I would love to hear your ideas or comments on mine.

Monday, March 08, 2010

3 Amateur Writing Mistakes: Can We Agree?

Today's blog entry submitted by Nancy Burgess, our director of Brand CHEMistry.

Do you want to look like an amateur? Of course not! Nobody does. And although you may not be a professional writer, chances are, if you’re a professional, you need to write professionally. Executive summaries, meeting reports, white papers, proposals, strategy plans, and yes, even e-mails, are opportunities for you to shine—or not.

Here are 3 tips to help you get your writing in agreement and avoid amateur mistakes that will cause your readers (boss, colleagues, etc) to trip over your words.

1.      Choose a voice.

Are you writing in the first person, second, or third person? Singular or plural? Choose one and stick to it. For example, this blog is written in the familiar second person, or “you.” But often third-person objectivity is called for in professional writing. If so, don’t switch midstream to the “you” or “we” voice.

Not sure about voice? Here are a few examples that might make it clearer.

First person singular:  I write about me. (pretentious!)
First person plural:    We write about us. (“we’re on the same team”)
Second person:  The writer speaks directly to you. (familiar)
Third person:   Professionals write about being professional. (formal)

2.      Choose a tense. 

Are you writing in the present tense? Past? Future? Pick one and stick with it. Switching between tenses can confuse your readers.

3.      Get your subjects and pronouns in agreement. 

A company is an “it”–not a they. Likewise, a person is a he or she, not a they. If a pronoun (he, she, it, they) is used as a subject of a sentence it refers to the subject of the previous sentence.

Example: The sales reps sold the products. They were plastic. (Really? Plastic reps?)
Example: Quality and value are important to your brand. It matters. (Which? The quality or the value? Or did the writer mean the brand?)

Make sure your voice, tense, and pronouns are in agreement, and your writing will appear more polished—and so will you.

Learn more at:

Friday, March 05, 2010

Accelerator initiative to speed up entry to China life science market

While in Shanghai this week, I learned more about an accelerator initiative to help US life science companies establish operations in China.

ChinaBio Accelerator Company Ltd. will work with companies to enter the China market more quickly and with less risk than they could on their own. The ChinaBio initiative mirrors a concept that has been used successfully in the web industry by Baidu, Google’s primary China competitor. ChinaBio believes its Accelerator is the first time the concept has been applied to the life science industry.

Here are some examples of other collaboration which are accelerating market growth and potential:

Pharmaron Holdings Limited has completed its acquisition of Bridge Laboratories China. Both Pharmaron, which is headquartered in California, and Bridge have laboratory facilities in Beijing. Pharmaron said the acquisition would “extend” the range of services it offers. Bridge provided the first western standard GLP-compliant preclinical toxicology services in China.

bioMerieux, the French maker of in vitro diagnostics, has acquired Meikang Biotech, a China company also involved in rapid test manufacturing, together with Meikang’s production site in Shanghai. bioMerieux will locate its Asia-Pacific headquarters and China R&D facility on the site.

WuXi AppTec and QIAGEN formed a partnership focused on molecular biomarker development. QIAGEN will contribute a portfolio of instruments, training, and consumables which WuXi AppTec will use in its Shanghai laboratory, expanding its service offerings to its clients. WuXi will also help QIAGEN to develop biomarkers, assay panels, personalized healthcare diagnostics, and other products that QIAGEN will market.

Shenzhen Beike Biotechnology Co. has received a $1.8 million grant to conduct a clinical trial of human umbilical cord mesenchymal stem cells (hUC-MSC) as a treatment for Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE), Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and other degenerative diseases. The grant was awarded by Jiangsu’s Department of Science and Technology. Beike Biotech’s partners in the project are Jiangsu University and Nanjing University’s Drug Tower Hospital.

Mindray Medical, the Shenzhen medical device company, said it expects 2009 revenues will total between $624 million and $633 million, representing a 15% improvement over year-earlier results. Earnings per share (non-GAAP) will be not less than $1.29. Those results were well ahead of analysts’ estimates, which called for $621 million in revenue and eps of $1.21.

Sinovac Biotech has received the fifth order for its H1N1 vaccine, Panflu.1™, from China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology. The latest order is for 8.57 million doses of the vaccine, bringing total Sinovac sales to 20 million doses. Sinovac must deliver 2.3 million doses by March 15, 2010, and the balance will be stockpiled in Sinovac’s warehouse.

Jiangbo Pharmaceuticals reported its oral Osteomyelitis treatment, Kang Gu Sui Yan Pian, has been included in the 2009 Edition of the National Basic Medical Insurance, Industrial Injury Insurance and Maternity Insurance Medicine Directory. 

Invida Group of Singapore announced plans to launch three dermatological brands in China: Dermatix®, Zalain® and Kinerase®. Invida, though mainly a commercialization company, also has proprietary products. With 13 subsidiaries and more than 3,700 employees, Invida was established as a Joint Venture in 2005 by Temasek Holdings, Quintiles Transnational and the Zuellig Group.

China Sky One Medical reported its AMI Diagnostic Kit for early detection of heart disease was designated a National Innovation Project. The award carries with it a 6 million RMB (US$.9 million) stipend for 2010.

Suven Life Sciences Ltd., a Hyderabad, India company that has made its name in bulk actives, drug and fine chemicals, was granted two patents in China for new chemical entities. The two molecules, which belong to the class of 5-HT compounds, are aimed at treating disorders associated with neurodegenerative diseases. The two patents are valid until 2023 and 2024 respectively.

You can follow more new about this “ascendant” life science market on ChinaBio.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

“Ascendant”: where we are with China life science

I arrived yesterday in Shanghai for several business meetings to explore the pharma and biotech market here — from basic research to new brand launch.

According to Greg B. Scott, executive editor of ChinaBio® Today, the life science market situation in China can be described as “ascendant.”

Mr. Scott presented an overview of ChinaBio’s research into the China life science landscape. He assessed the tremendous opportunities currently available in China for life science companies and presented statistics showing the huge growth in China’s life science sector over the past few years.

At the core, he said, is the value proposition that China offers to the world’s pharmaceutical community: the combination of low cost and high quality work.

Added to that is what’s being called the Hai Gui or “sea turtles” phenomenon – meaning China-born scientists who have profited from Western education and pharma experience are now bring that knowledge back to China. According to the Ministry of Health, there have been 150,000 returnees in the last three years. A factor for several years, the Hai Gui trend continues to grow: 69,300 returnees were counted in 2009, a 69% increase over the year earlier.

China is driven to innovate, with government incentives for those companies that explore new technologies. This resulted in 717,000 patent applications in 2008, an increase of 22%.

Globally, China is helped by a more vibrant economy than most other countries.  At the same time, big pharma is restructuring by doing more partnering deals to spread its R&D risk. That results in more R&D dollars available to small biopharmas with interesting research programs.

Life science parks located around China are vying with each other to entice companies to locate operations in their facilities. The major parks are Zhangjiang Hi-Tech Park in Shanghai (pictured in the photo above), Zhongguancun Life Science Park in Beijing, BioBay in Suzhou, and TEDA in Tianjin, and they are joined by smaller parks as well as incubators, which together number more than 50.

Clinical trials show robust activity. From 2004 to 2009:
  • 149 drugs were in SFDA trials;
  • 110 new drugs entered the clinic;
  • 26 new drugs launched (9 novel molecules);
  • 7 new drugs entered and launched;
  • 122 new drugs are currently in clinical trials; and
  • 187 new drugs are in preclinical development;
  • 12 new drugs entered the clinic and 3 new drugs were launched in 2009

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

3 ways to gain "The Analytic Advantage"

Today's blog is written by Layne Shapiro, one of our brand engagement managers.

To increase profit margins and get ahead of the competition, more companies are taking advantage of analytics.

As our world is shrinking (explored by Thomas Friedman in The World is Flat) it is becoming increasingly difficult to differentiate yourself from competitors based only on products.   Overseas or outsourced competition has the low cost advantage, due to inexpensive labor costs.  And innovative offers are only momentarily unique, as rivals copycat any successful tactic.

With analytics, companies are tracking how many new sources their marketing is generating.  We can determine the visitor to lead conversions from a particular source, and lead to customer conversions, which will discern the most and least effective source of leads.  Most companies today try to measure marketing ROI to justify their investments.

You can discover:
  • what your customers want
  • how much they’re willing to pay
  • what keeps them loyal
Sophisticated data-collection technology and analysis empowers companies with the best evidence and quantitative tools for making the best decisions.  This is according to Thomas H. Davenport in the Harvard Business Review and in his new book, Analytics at Work: Smarter Decisions, Better Results.

He says, “Analytics competitors seize the lead in their fields.”  Click here to listen to a podcast interview with Davenport.

As tracking consumer behavior and interests becomes more accessible with the increasing use of mobile phones and internet cookies, what do you think the future of analytics might unleash?

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Social Marketing DNA Tests

“O wonder!
How many goodly creatures are there here!”
- from Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

This blog submission was contributed by Robb Hughes, our finance director with a curious technology mind.
Alphas, Betas, Gammas, Deltas, and Epsilons aren’t here yet, but our children could soon be more genetically perfect like the Alphas of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, if technology for prospective parents from Counsyl catches on.

According to an article in Technology Review, Counsyl, a Redwood City, California, start-up, brilliantly timed its unveiling with the release of the movie Extraordinary Measures. The drama is inspired by a true story of a man who risked his future to pursue a cure for Pompe disease, a disorder often fatal to children and one of the genetic defects that Counsyl’s test can detect.

Millions of children die each year from preventable genetic disease; Counsyl is on a mission to prevent it. Sometimes free with insurance or for $349, prospective parents can order a DIY at-home genetic test kit that screens for more than 100 rare genetic diseases like cystic fibrosis, SMA, sickle cell, and Tay-Sachs. These diseases while not curable, can be prevented.

The test is non-invasive, quick and simple.  Both parents spit into a tube (see photo), seal it, and send it via regular mail to Counsyl. Results are available online in 2-3 weeks. If the pregnancy is deemed high risk for a rare disease, Counsyl can refer patients to a qualified physician or genetic counselor for assistance mitigating risks.

Read more about it at www.counsyl.com

Monday, March 01, 2010

2 life science leaders combine: Merck acquires Millipore to advance bioresearch brands

While I was with our Merck Bioscience client in China this weekend, we received a very exciting and important announcement:  Merck has acquired Millipore to create a world-class partner for the life science sector.

The transaction is valued at $7.2 billion.  The combined business will have significant scale in the high-growth bioresearch and bioproduction segments.

"This is a combination with an excellent strategic fit, which will allow us to cover the entire value chain for our pharma and biopharma customers, offering integrated solutions beyond chemicals," said Dr. Karl-Ludwig Kley, Chairman of the Executive Board of Merck.

Millipore has a strong position in the attractive bioresearch and bioproduction segments, offering a comprehensive range of products, technologies and services for pharma and biotech companies, as well as for academia, to improve laboratory productivity and to develop and optimize manufacturing processes. In 2009, Millipore generated sales of $1.7 billion, with around 6,000 employees in more than 30 countries.

Martin Madaus, Chairman, President and CEO of Millipore said, "Over the past five years, we have transformed Millipore into a life science leader by driving innovation, entering new markets, and generating exceptional operational performance. Today's announcement, which is the outcome of a thorough strategic review process, is a validation of the tremendous value of the Millipore brand and a testament to the value this transformation has created for all of our stakeholders. We are excited to join a high-quality company like Merck as we will gain greater scale and scope in the life science industry."
Together, Millipore and Merck will have a significant presence in high-growth segments and an enhanced geographic presence. Combining the research and development capabilities of both companies will create a powerful innovation platform to develop cutting-edge technologies that are tailored even more closely to the needs of customers.

In order to ensure a seamless integration of the two businesses, Merck will apply a "best of both worlds" integration approach across all operating business functions. Merck plans to build on Millipore's talented workforce and intends to retain its senior management. The company also plans to maintain Millipore's headquarters in Billerica and combine it with Merck's U.S. chemicals headquarters.

WuXi PharmaTech of China competing on price for more contract R&D

In our recent global issue of STINSON’s Acclerate newsletter, we listed 8 companies to watch in health, science, and technology.  At the top of the list is WuXi PharmaTech, a Chinese drug-research company that provides scientists-for-hire to conduct research and development (R&D).

Last week while I was in China, one of Wuxi’s executives said the company hopes to become a global player in the next five to 10 years.

Edward Hu, chief operating officer of WuXi PharmaTech, stated, "The majority of our clients are big international firms, with Pfizer and Merck ranking as the top two. As business expands, we want to win more clients, big or small, and get more orders from current customers."

The Shanghai-based company said it will do so by expanding into biotech, safety evaluation and manufacturing, thereby providing an array of outsourcing services that are cheaper yet of equal quality to their foreign counterparts.

From 2005 to 2008, the firm's revenue grew by over 100% annually as a growing number of international firms outsourced their pharmaceutical R&D business to developing nations like China, where the talent pool is abundant and labor costs are comparatively lower.

"In 2006, the R&D cost of a new drug for an American pharmaceutical company was $1.5 billion, five to 10 times the cost of a similar drug developed in China or India. It is estimated in 2009, US pharmaceuticals firms outsourced 41% of their R&D business, valued at $24 billion worldwide," added Zheng Yufen, senior manager for healthcare at the investment banking division of Zero2IPO.

Click here to read more in the Wednesday 2/24 edition of the China Daily newspaper.